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The Cesc Factor

Guillem gives his verdict as he previews this week's live La Liga games

Guillem Balague - Guillem Balague Posted 15th November 2011 view comments

Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Guillem Balague looks at this week's live La Liga games.

If you've got a question for Guillem, send it to skysportsclub@bskyb.com.

Barcelona v Zaragoza
Valencia v Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v Levante
Granada v Mallorca

Fabregas: Guardiola trying to fit him into the team

Fabregas: Guardiola trying to fit him into the team

Barcelona v Zaragoza
7pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD4

It's the end of international week, but I just don't trust Zaragoza. They have a team full of warriors and it looks like they realised very early on that they would be fighting relegation, which is sensible. In the past they suffered a bit because they believed they should be much higher up the table. There is lots of tension between the fans and the board at Zaragoza; that's obviously less noticeable when they play away.

As for Barcelona, it's interesting how they are changing their tactics all the time and almost two or three times in every game. That's basically because they are trying to find a way to get Cesc Fabregas into the side and that is causing them problems.

Valencia v Real Madrid
9pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD4

Unlike Barcelona, Real Madrid are very solid and know exactly what they are doing. There aren't many changes, there isn't much rotation and they are very confident. But this is one of their big tests because Valencia know exactly how to play against Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Both will be suffering from the 'FIFA Virus' because they both have internationals, but I expect Valencia to give Madrid a really tough time if Jose Mourinho's side don't score early. Valencia are capable of playing direct football - without ╔ver Banega that's what they'll have to do - and if it becomes a box-to-box game then it will it be spectacular and we will find out who has got the best defence. It should be a fantastic game.

Atletico Madrid v Levante
7pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1

Atletico Madrid have got a problem because the fans don't believe in Gregorio Manzano and if things go wrong, they quickly turn against him and start chanting Luis Aragones's name. The board is not impressed with Manzano either, so there is a possibility that things will change there if they have one or two more bad results.

If Levante score first it is almost impossible to turn the game around and for them to lose it. They've had a week to rest as they have no internationals, so they will be much better prepared than their opponents, for whom Falcao may be out injured.

Grenada v Mallorca
9pm, Sun, Sky Sports HD1

Grenada are starting to get to grips with the First Division. They know they have to work even harder than they have been doing so far and they need to be a little bit more effective. They have one of the lowest shots-to-goals-scored ratios in La Liga, which is a problem.

Mallorca are going through a transition from a team that wanted possession of the ball under Michael Laudrup to a team that doesn't want it and is happy to play on the counter-attack. Both teams are quite similar and counter-attacking football can sometimes mean a 0-0 draw if neither side wants the ball.

Guillem answers your questions...

Got a question for Guillem? Then send it in here or use the feedback form below, and then look out for his answer next week.

SPANISH SYSTEMS
A great read as always. Very introspective of the way Del Bosque's mind must be working. Some important points, Jordi Alba is the future for the left-back position for Spain once he makes the position his own. Enrique was never a player suited to the Spanish style of playing. I don't think San Iker's position can ever be brought under scrutiny. I don't think either Llorente or Torres really suit their style and a trident of Silva-Villa-Mata makes a lot of sense. On that note, I wanted to ask, whom does Del Bosque rate higher? Mata or Navas? Luv Shukla (Chelsea fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: I completely agree with your analysis about Spain. Jordi Alba is the future at left-back and the reason that Jose Enrique hasn't been called up yet is because there's an impression that he's not much better. There is more trust in Jordi Alba and Nacho Monreal, but I'd question whether Monreal is better than Enrique and I believe he should be called up, at least to give him a try. He could replace some of the work that Joan Capdevila used to do for Spain; he wasn't the greatest full-back, but he was good on set pieces. However, Capdevila was better than Enrique defensively.

Also, with this team that builds from the back and attacks with a high defensive line, some people would say that Victor Valdes is better suited as goalkeeper... but there's a reason why he's called San Iker

You say Fernando Llorente or Fernando Torres aren't suited to the side, but Spain have so much versatility. They can play the way they did against England, but they can also play with wingers and use Llorente - and that makes the side stronger. I would always call up those two. As for Juan Mata and Jesus Navas, I'd say Mata is preferred, but they are completely different players. Mata plays between the lines, but Navas is a winger and that gives you two different possibilities.

WHAT'S LEFT FOR BARCA?
I'm impressed by Jordi Alba. His style of play would be awesome for Barcelona. Have they earmarked him as Eric Abidal's replacement since you said last year that Pep Guardiola would use him more as a centre-back. Full-back is probably the area where Barcelona do not have much strength (in numbers). How come? Sachin Poduval (Manchester Utd fan)

GUILLEM SAYS: If I'm not mistaken, Jordi Alba's contract is up at the end of the season and he's right at the top of Barcelona's list for left-back next season as a replacement for Abidal, who can play at both left-back and centre-back - as we've seen, especially in the 3-4-3 formation.

GOT TO JAV HIM...
Hi Guillem, I have been a lifelong Man Utd fan and I have only started reading your columns. I have to say you sure do know your stuff about Spanish football... I have one question to ask you and that is about the several rumours surrounding Javier Mascherano from Barcelona and Javi Martinez from Villarreal respectively? There are several newspaper reports here in the UK and Spain that they are both rumoured to be on their way out of Spain and heading towards the red side of Manchester for a change? Can you please try and get back to me ASAP for your view on this and maybe more of an idea to if this is true. Thanks Guillem. Ebrahim Hassan.

GUILLEM SAYS: Mascherano has no intention of leaving Barcelona, so that kills that story. As for Javi Martinez, a club from Manchester has been in touch with him - but it's City, not United. By that I mean, they have called his agent to discuss the price of taking him away and they were quoted 40million euros, which is his buy-out clause. There's four years left on his contract, so he'd be a very expensive player. He's willing to leave, but at the moment that's as far as it's gone. Just a few calls.

Do you agree with Guillem's views? Have your say and send in your questions using the comments box below...

Comments (14)

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Shane Farrington (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, After a stuttering start Athletic Bilbao have started to show real signs of improvement under Marcelo Bielsa. They have core of hugely talented players such as Javi Martinez, IKer Munian and Fernando Llorente, and look capable of building on last season's achievments. Do you think they have what it takes to secure a Champions League spot this season? Thanks in advance.

Posted 11:04 21st November 2011

Ebrahim Hassan (Manchester United fan) says...

Hi Guillem, thanks for replying to me and as always great column. do you think there is any chance of cristiano Ronaldo coming back to united after his contract at madrid has run out. and i would like to know if there is any players in La Liga that have been linked with man united, and is there a chance of moving to united. thanks guillem.

Posted 14:38 20th November 2011

Eoghan O' sullivan (Barcelona fan) says...

Hi Guillem. I've e-mailed you before (last year about Thiago Alcantara - you responded Thanks) and I'm wondering who┐ll be the next big player to come out of Barcelona┐s Academy. Is Rafina going to make it in the next two years and who's he similar too, and why does Guardiola not give Fontas any minutes. I'm happy to see Cuenca getting minutes, he's doing well. But ultimately - who from the youths will have a first team contract next year.?.

Posted 13:42 20th November 2011

Thomas Nelson (Rangers fan) says...

hi guilleme i would just like to know(its a good thing),,i watched spanish football for 20 years and one thing that strikes me is all the teams are willing to play football.this facinated me because the ball goes from keeper to defender then on,,why do all the english and most other leaugues say they want to emulate barca then play long ball,,in spain this fear of losing doesnt exist,,obviously no one wants to get relegated but why is there no fear...is it training,upbringing,,i dont know ,,its fantastic to watch ,,best league in the world by a very long way...also do you think the foreign money will change the game there and make it more rigid and fearfull like england etc

Posted 22:08 18th November 2011

Mark Stimpson (Liverpool fan) says...

richard cotter are you even on the same plant as everyone else??? enrique the best left back in the prem, coming from a liverpool fan, baines at the bitters is the highest scoring defender on the planet par dani alves over the past three seasons, hes set up more than dani alves in that period, and only nani set up more than him in any position last season, really need to wobble your head, baines, cole, are both better and possibly kolorov, enrique is a good player yes but no where near a capdevilla in his prime, and jordi alba is better devensivley and going foward than him, and pfffftttt get a grip david villa to us, we have a policy of young future stars at liverpool now, not 30 year old players that have said no to the premier league for two years running because they dont want to leave spain, llorente now thats a target we should look at maybe, but cmon dont overhype our players so much you think mediocre players are world class

Posted 19:47 18th November 2011

Paul Collins (Arsenal fan) says...

haha at the liverpool fan saying jsoe enrique is the best left back in the premier league. i despise utd,chelsea and spurs but their left backs are better than enrique easily.

Posted 13:18 17th November 2011

Sean Gilbertson (Everton fan) says...

@Richard Cotter, can I have some of the drugs your on mate? Jose Enrique the best LB in the Premiership? Better than Cole, Evra or Baines? Have a word with yourself pal!

Posted 10:52 17th November 2011

Rod Massie (Aberdeen fan) says...

Hola Guillem, Keep up the good work on this site and Revista, the best football show on TV. A question regarding the Spanish national team. I know they move their games around the country but when was the last time the they played a game in Barcelona or Bilbao? Also I'm a Barca fan and I was wondering if the defence will be the main area that the club are looking to strengthen next summer, I've noticed Jordi Alba being linked but what about the cenre-back position.

Posted 08:09 17th November 2011

Cem Bilenler (Barcelona fan) says...

Hi Guillem, very exciting and informative article like allways. I just wanted to ask about the situation with Villa and Messi, as you must be aware, there is some media sources claiming that they have had a considerable arguement. Hence the reason for not starting against Ath.Bilbao. How worrying is this speculation for Barcelona fans around the world. Finally it would be much appreciated if you can comment on Barcelona flirting with Gareth Bale. I mean it would be amazing but how and where would he play? Please get back to me. Keep up the good work.

Posted 14:18 16th November 2011

Zak Degale (Arsenal fan) says...

Hello Guillem, I know you're a Spanish football expert and just wanted know what you think of Ignasi Miquel, Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin all at Arsenal? Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin both joined Arsenal in the summer from Barcelona and are going for Arenal U18s team. And Ignasi Miquel who was in the Spanish U19s squad which won the U19s Euros in the summer, is captain for Arsenal reserves. Thanks

Posted 13:04 16th November 2011

Richard Cotter (Liverpool fan) says...

guillem i disagree with you when you say that capdvilla is better defensivly then enrique u obviously have not being watching liverpool enrique is the best left back in the premier league i have 2 questions for you why do you think cesc hasnt found a position at barca and is there any chance david villa is coming to liverpool over his arguement with lionel messi ?

Posted 12:53 16th November 2011

Vinit Shah (Barcelona fan) says...

HI Guillem,I am a huge fan of your blogs.I follow La Liga and EPL. There is one thing I cannot understand:why does the EPL clubs dont produce outstanding technical players.Even teams like Manchester United and Arsenal where the managers have been at their respective clubs for more than14 years,who it seems are in control of most of the things.

Posted 12:33 16th November 2011

Christopher Jack (Arsenal fan) says...

Hi Guillem, Love the blog and also follow you and many other great football writers on Twitter. What I wanted to ask you was what are Bareclona's and even Real Madrid's take on Gareth Bale? It was confirmed by the spanish media that Albert Valentin had been at Craven Cottage to check out Gareth Bale, is there a genuine interest in him? Everyone knew what he was capable of in last seasons Champions League but Barca opted to buy Cesc and Sanchez instead.

Posted 11:24 16th November 2011

Kurtis Robinson (Newcastle United fan) says...

Hi Guillem ive been watching spanish football for most of my life im now 18 and for me the past few seasons having been as good but this season im glad that im seeing teams like bilbao , levante etc not lying down when playing madrid or barca which makes for more exciting games do you think this is because these teams have realised players such as pepe , marcelo , adriano , abidal can be got at or do you just think the so called 'lesser sides' are better defensively to stand up and not crumble under pressure? and also do you think Madrid and Barca have what it takes defensively to win the Champions League this season? im very dissapointed with Villareal this season who seem to have lost all the usual spirit.

Posted 09:03 16th November 2011

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